“What are you doing here, Si-SUN Wukong?” The Demon Bull King asked slowly, stumbling over his usual insult for the one once so close to him. They still weren’t close, and it was doubtful they would ever be as long as the sworn brothers they once were, but they were no longer at each other’s throats anymore.
That didn’t change how bizarre it was to see The Great Sage Equal To Heaven just… sitting outside his new home with no warning.
“DBK!” Wukong exclaimed, more startled than the larger demon was expecting as he jumped up and turned and if he didn’t look like he’d been hit with a truck metaphorically DBK didn’t know how to describe the way his fur stood on end and the redness in the other’s eyes. “I. UH. Was. Just stopping by to say hi!”
“No you weren’t,” DBK said, face falling into a deadpan glower. “You don’t do that. Even after 500 years I know you don’t.”
“I can start!” Wukong defended, crossing his arms and looking away with a wide teeth showing smile.
Even after everything that happened between them, from Red Boy to what happened when he needed his wife’s fan to sealing him in the mountain and everything that transpired with the Little Thief, he recognized that unhappy nervous smile.
“You can,” DBK said with a nod, gesturing to the smaller being. “You can also be here for a reason. Like what I heard you muttering to yourself behind the door.”
“And that’s my cue to leave!” The Monkey King announced as he turned to walk away before a large hand, with shocking gentleness for the one attached to it, wrapped around his shoulders.
“If you need to talk-”
“No, haha, I most certainly have no need for that!”
“-you know we’ve already made peace. I-”
“You don’t need to do anything,” Wukong insisted, struggling only a little before freeing himself from the other’s grip with an even wider nervous smile.
“-am willing to listen.”
“Don’t have to!”
“Are you at least talking to anyone?”
Neither of them said anything, The Demon Bull King staring down at The Monkey King with both frustrated annoyance and genuine concern in his expression.
The former he could deal with, but the later was so new again that…
Sun Wukong panicked.
“…. OKEY BYE!” He yelled, jumping and allowing his cloud to catch him and take him off.
“YOU CAN’T HIDE FROM YOUR FEELINGS FOREVER SUN WUKONG!”
“I HID FROM THE WORLD FOR 500 YEARS AND I TURNED OUT JUST FINE, I THINK I’LL MANAGE!”
“He turned out fine, he says,” Princess Iron Fan called from behind her husband as she emerged from their home. “So fine that it took him losing his invincibility and his successor nearly being killed for him to admit he needed help.”
DBK grunted, nodding in agreement at her words.
“He needs more, still, my dear. Even I can see that.”
“Let’s call in some reinforcements then, darling. I think there are two people who may be able to get through to him.”
Sun Wukong sat on the beach of Mount Huaguo’s island home, clearly trying not to think about what had just transpired.
“How did you even know to look for me here?” Sun Wukong asked, not nearly as startled this time. He’d heard the footsteps coming for a long time, the other apparently wanting to make his presence known.
“Bull King called Pigsy’s asking for MK. MK called me since he’s working. I remembered where you like to sulk. Hence: I’m here.”
Wukong groaned, wrapping his arms around his knees and burying his face in them. “I shouldn’t have even left the house today.”
“But you left,” Macaque said with a shrug, watching the other stew in his frustration at himself. “And you went to see DBK… and I guess Princess Iron Fan too? But you ran off. Why?”
“I can’t check up on an old friend turned enemy turned less enemy to ‘not exactly friend but we’re not trying to kill each other’ without being questioned?” Wukong grumbled into his arms.
“Not when you make him sound as worried as he did when he talked to MK,” Macaque continued, voice becoming more tense. “You didn’t go to apologize or explain anything, I was there when all that went down. So… did you finally go to talk about everything e-”
“No.” The word was said with such coldness that Macaque knew it was put on. It wasn’t out of malice but something else, something more worried and fearful. “No. I can’t talk to him about… I told him everything that explained what happened. I apologized. I don’t need to talk more.”
“I don’t understand why you’re so opposed to to just talking about, you know… how you’re doing,” Macaque said with a concerned frown. It almost felt odd on his face. Almost. He was still getting used to the whole “not being mortal eternal enemies and now being friends and kinda sorta caring about each other again” thing. “I know it’s been centuries and all and you’re out of practice but like… it’s been centuries.”
“I just… can’t, Macaque,” Wukong rebutted as he refused to lift his head from his arms. “I just can’t.”
The single word stayed in their air between them, heavy and hard and meaning more than the immortal would ever admit to.
“Come on, there has to be a reason,” Macaque insisted as he sat down beside the other immortal. When no response came he sighed, tail flicking absently and flipping over some of the rocks on the beach as they sat in silence for few minutes. “You know… I started talking to someone.”
“What?” Wukong turned his head, just enough to look at the other monkey from the corner of his eye.
“Sandy’s a good listener,” Macaque continued, falling back down to lay flat on his back and gaze up at the clouds. He remembered that Wukong felt better, sometimes, when you looked away when talked to. Didn’t know why, but he remembered. “Not exactly the kind of therapy he thinks I need, but he lends me his cats and he lets me talk and sometimes asks if I want advice. Sometimes I say yes, but when I say no he understands. Sometimes I just want to rant at that one little one eyed cat he has and she listened to… I think. She’s a cat so I wouldn’t know. He thinks I should see someone more experienced, an expert. Maybe he’s right, I dunno, but this helps enough for now.
“… who are you and what have you done with the Six-Eared Macaque?” Wukong asked with a soft glower, one that was clearly in jest from the tiny smile the other could see.
“Same Macaque,” the other said with a laugh, sitting back up with a theatrical flourish. “Just realized that talking to someone isn’t as dumb or useless as I made it out to be in my head. A lot of the stuff I thought about alone wasn’t exactly the best. Or healthiest. But now I can get that out there and sometimes it makes Sandy look like he ate a whole lime which probably means it’s good it’s not in my head anymore.”
“You ramble a lot,” Wukong said with a chuckle, tail swishing softly beside him before nudging against Macaque’s. He tensed before it slowly wrapped around the other’s. “It feels odd, having you try to cheer me up again after… everything.”
“Bad odd or good odd?”
“That’s…. good,” Macaque said, squeezing Wukong’s tail with his own. “Feels odd for me too. Like I’m out of practice too. But it’s good odd…” The two sat in silence for a moment, just enjoying each other’s company before he continued. “I do think you should talk to someone. Anyone.”
“I don’t know who, though. Every time I try I just… clam up and run away. I’ve put so much on MK already,” Wukong said, tail squeezing around Macaque’s loosely in return. “And Pigsy and Sandy… After all that came out, that Sandy is Sha Wujing and Pigsy is Zhu Bajie’s reincarnation… I just… I can’t talk to them either, even though Pigsy doesn’t remember anything at all. And you… DBK… everyone… who do I go to that knows enough about me to know what they’re in for but I won’t have those memories floating around in the back of my head toward making me run away?”
“Well, you could have Sandy help you get a therapist. Prepare them in advance. Or, if you’re not ready for that, you could talk to Tang?” Macaque suggested with a shrug. “He listens to me when I’m not talking to Sandy… but that’s probably because we’re dating, that’s what it is now instead of courting, right? So he kinda has to I think? Pigsy and MK talk to him too but with me I think it’s different.”
“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Wukong said with a half hearted chuckle as he finally raised his head all the way. “Besides, I’ve known Tang longer.”
“By like 3 months.”
“3 months more is still enough to know that if he doesn’t want to listen to you he won’t. The man knows how to make a speedy exit.”
“Guess that’s one more thing that sets him apart from his great-great-great-great-great-whatever uncle,” Macaque admitted with a shrug and a chuckle of his own. He squeezed his tail around Wukong’s, smile softening when he felt it being returned.
“Feels… weird though,” Wukong said with a shrug. “The two of them looking so much alike.”
“Yeah, but that’s it,” Macaque rebutted. “He’s Tang Sanzang’s great-whatever nephew 5 times removed or whatever and he looks like him. Other than that? He knows pretty much all of your history. He’s mostly out of the hero worship zone but he still respects you a lot. Aside from everything that happened with LBD and MK you two have the least history out of everyone so maybe whatever’s in your head making you clam up might not stop you. And it couldn’t hurt to try. It’s not therapy, it’s just talking about something that’s bothering you. Worst that can happen is you get nervous and fumble and he takes the opportunity to ask you 40 questions about the times you were almost incinerated by a baby.“
"That was one time!”
“Uh,” Tang started, staring out the open door with wide eyes at the being before him. “Hi. I didn’t exactly expect to you see today.”
“I didn’t exactly expect to be here today,” Wukong said awkwardly, nervous smile taking over his face as his tone became far too jovial for what he was about to ask. “Macaque sent me to… talk to you. About me?” His smile drooped bit by bit as he said these words, slowly starting to lose his determination to go through with this. “Oh second thought, maybe I should-”
“No,” Tang said, reaching out to put a hand on the immortal’s shoulder. It was nothing, really, not to someone as strong as he was. Not when he could brush it off and walk away. Go home. Just sit on his couch and watch Monkey King The Animated Series again and just think about how no one deserved to be saddled with his problems anymore. But Wukong didn’t. “Whatever it is, we’re going to talk about this now. I know I’m not trained like Sandy is, but I know how to listen. And if you need someone to listen to you, I can. You wouldn’t have come here to talk if you didn’t.”
“… ok…” Sun Wukong said, letting Tang wrap his arm around his back and guide him inside his shared home with Pigsy and Macaque.
It was… odd. Being inside this place for the first time. He’d been outside of the door more than once, invited in as well. But never inside.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Tang said, stopping his guidance once they reached the sofa. “I’m no Sandy, but I was making myself some tea and it is a batch of his own anyway. I’ll grab us some snacks too.”
“Snacks would be great,” Wukong admitted, watching the other disappear into the house’s kitchen before he sighed and gripped his thrashing tail and muttered to himself. “What am I doing..? I shouldn’t put all this on Tang… I should have gone with Macaque’s first suggestion, I’m-”
“Do you prefer lychee or persimmon?” Tang asked suddenly, startling the immortal for the second time that day. “We’re out of peach bao, but MK’s been making them out of lots of fruits and we have so many that I was planning on eating them myself.”
The scholar returned, faster than expected, with a full tray in hand. Teapot, two tea cups, and a steamer box that presumably held the buns he was asking about.
“Uh… persimmon,” Wukong answered, and he watched as Tang poured each of them a cup of tea and removed some clearly fresh (or at least made some time earlier in the day and freshly steamed), pieces of fruit laden bao to put on a plate for his guest before taking a seat in a chair across from him. “You were… getting lunch?”
Tang shrugged, laughing as he took a bite of one of his own. “Just wanted a snack. But,” He smiled, gesturing to the Monkey King. “We’re not here to talk about snacks. What’s on your mind?”
“Awfully forward start.”
“I try to be forward with the people I consider my friends.”
“… You consider me… a friend?” Wukong asked slowly, turning the bao over in his hands. It was well made, perfect he would say. You’d think MK would have been making them all his life, not that he’d learned how to on the drone ship while on the run from an evil super demon bent on erasing his mentor from the world.
“After everything we went through, how could I not?” Tang said, putting his food down to sip his tea and then putting that down as well and looking at him seriously. “You’re here because it’s the anniversary of the day you sealed away the Demon Bull King, aren’t you?”
The bao in his hands wasn’t perfect anymore. Instead the red lychee inside dripped from his claws from where they punctured it in surprise.
“How did you-?”
“My specialty study is your history after all,” Tang said, smile returning with a sad tint. “I’ve known the date for years but I felt it was something to keep to myself. For some reason. Now with you and DBK back I think that was a good choice. It feels too personal to have out in the open for everyone to make a spectacle of.”
“Is it selfish of me to be thankful for that?” Wukong muttered, gently placing the bao on the plate to lick his claws clean.
“I don’t think so,” Tang answered.
“I feel selfish though,” he continued, not managing to take note of how Tang sat up straighter and turned more toward him. “I went to DBK’s to… I don’t know. I wanted to apologize again? But I already did and he accepted it and it feels selfish to want to again. Then I just. I froze.”
“Why?” Tang asked, scooting closer.
“It felt wrong.”
“Because you would make him feel awkward?”
“NO!” Wukong groaned, burying his face in his hands. “I just. I feel…” He took in a shaky breath, claws digging into his skin slightly.
“Don’t,” Tang’s voice came soft and closer than Wukong expected, as did the hands on his own slowly pulling his claws away from his face. “Don’t hurt yourself. And don’t bottle it up. I’ll listen to you. No matter what it is. It’s not selfish, feeling things isn’t selfish.”
“I miss it,” Wukong breathed out, shaky and choppy as his throat tightened as the words started to pour out of him. “I miss him. How things used to be between us and Iron Fan. I miss that I never got to meet Red Son when he was Red Boy. I miss Beng and Ba and Ma and Liu and how things used to be. I miss Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing even though they’re here. I miss my Tang Sanzang. I’d been alone for 500 years and I missed so much and I did that to myself and it’s selfish to miss like that…”
He didn’t realize his cheeks were wet until his hands had been let go and one of Tang’s rubbed a cloth against them. Tang cupped his cheeks softly before wrapping his arms around him and tucking the Monkey King’s head into the space between his neck and shoulder.
“No… no it’s not. You’re allowed to miss things, Sun Wukong. Just like anyone else.”
Sun Wukong started to feel better.
He didn’t know why that was what did it, but the dam broke. It broke and his tears came pouring out as he hugged the man who reminded him so much of his Master. He didn’t know if anything he said in the mean time made any sense, if he was just blubbering and finally letting himself mourn what he’d lost and never had, but Tang didn’t ever chastise him. He let him weep and hold him and for the first time in years…
“Oh!” Princess Iron Fan startled as she opened the door to see who had knocked, finding herself face to face at sunset with one Great Sage. “You’ve returned.”
“Are you and DBK free?” Sun Wukong asked, smile no longer too wide. “I… kinda just wanna talk with you for a bit.”
“Well… I think that would be lovely.”